You're known for your "CyKlops," those charmingly watchful streetposts. What was your inspiration for creating those, and your purpose? How has the project grown?
I started painting on the anti parking bollards in 2007. It was a medium that nobody used and I wanted to represent an eye on the balls that seemed to look on the street. I don’t add anything, I only cover an existing form with colours, much like Artoyz; it becomes more real by the fact that it has volume, not flat like a wall.
The Stupid Monsters / Paris 2011
In Paris, there are many of these posts, I just have to choose among the 300,000 that the city installed. I started working without authorisation and then my CyKlops were exhibited in the gallery and Fairs. I participated in festivals and then in more permanent facilities. I also worked with schools: the children made a hundred monsters in the streets. It was a very rewarding project; we re-appropriated public space.
What’s the distinction between your artist name and the name of the characters you create?
It's become a character I named The Cyklop in reference to the mythological cyclops. There is an ambiguity between my artist name and the characters that I represent on these posts. I registered the name at the foot of each post, and people have called me like that.
Festival 12x12 - Paris 12e - France / Photo : Cécile Gabriel
Does the government remove your CyKlops? Or do they leave them intact, since they've become so popular?
The local residents made a petition to the City of Paris to preserve the installation, but the highways services repaint the posts very quickly. But for some time, the City of Paris recognised my work and left in place CyKlops on sidewalks.
How long do you think you'll keep working on the CyKlops series?
I don’t know where that will lead me. They are the type of street furniture in all shapes and all over the world.
I will continue the Lego series - it represents toys as a metaphor for ourselves. In the spring, I will also continue to install the Lovers series around Paris. Then I'm doing a workshop with children called Cartoon Street, where we'll transform a whole street with comic book heroes and cartoon characters. And I am planning a night: 'FluoStreet vs. BlackLight', with fluorescent things lit by UV light.
The comic book project sounds so interesting. Two questions about that: 1. What's your favourite comic book? and 2. You've worked with kids a few times now. What draws you to them as an audience? Not many street artists pay attention to the children viewers of their work, though perhaps they should!
The comic book that I particularly like right now is pushing the Kitaro, a Japanese manga series published in the late 50s and created by Shigeru Mizuki. It showcases yôkaismonsters from Japanese popular culture. The hero, Kitaro, is blind. His father is called Oyaji Medama, it is represented by a character with a little eyeball in place of the head. I love this story because it uses monsters to talk about men.
Street Monsters, Paris- France 2011 / Photo : Gérard Lavalette
I love working with children because they still have the freshness, some would say naivety, missing in adults. All children draw as they grow in the world, yet one day when they become teenagers, they stop. I do not know why. Is it to grow up or because they discover shame not to draw a picture that 'looks like' something? For my part, I never stopped drawing. I'm probably still a child inside.
What attracts you to street art as communication?
What I love about urban art is the appropriation of public space to propose any other ideas. The street is often polluted by advertising, signs, signage, but fantasy rarely has a place in cities. These funny characters are there to challenge the citizens. They are a reflection of ourselves, they set their eyes on us, but a silent look full of meaning, like the Lego Niqab. They reflect the drift of political correctness and uniformity of our society. Adding an item as controversial as the niqab to the sanitized world of Lego created a disturbing contrast between two opposing worlds. In France we have this problem with the difference that the Anglo-Saxon cannot wear those items. The English bobby can wear Sikh turbans though!
Lego Collection / 2011
The series Stupid Monsters is more playful. I like playing on symbols, and then I made them little silly, like anti-heroes. These are not evil monsters, because I prefer the funny monsters. These are nice, like the Casimir or Barbapapa. These are toys that everyone can play with. I added a fictional character in the street. Very often people smile and take pictures with the CyKlops, and play with them - adding a hat, or caressing them. They’re very surprised when a street is transformed with colourful and large eyes. There's even a online treasure hunt in search of CyKlops called GeoCyKlop, which was created by Parisians and works with smartphone geolocation. Over two hundred people participated in 2011. People are reclaiming the urban space through CyKlops. It's very flattering that my work is well accepted and reused by the public.
Your work is quite fun, though the meaning and intention of the artwork is serious.
My work is always fun, because I love fantasy. I am always cheerful and I love to laugh. We live in a society where whimsy has no place. Everything is calculated, and must be used for something - we must make money. We're just talking about growth, gross domestic product, it does not take into account the human. Our companies colour everything gray. The streets are gray, the walls are gray like cement. Today, we are rationalists and we have lost the consciousness of things, and individualism has taken power. It can be seen in Europe: it's every man for himself, and this is called the European Community. They forgot that in Community, a common!
Rue Vian, Marseille / France 2010
The act of painting in the street, which is free for all of us, shows a willingness to go against this phenomenon of individualism. I paint in the street to meet people and offer a different look at the city. Poles turned into CyKlops retain their function to prevent cars from parking on sidewalks, but I change the use. They become a monster or a strange animal with which you can play or take pictures. They become a place to go sometimes, a landmark.
Rad. What are you looking forward to most?
Among the next projects, I look forward to more exhibitions in the art galleries in the cities.
See more of Le Cyklop's work at lecyklop.blogspot.com. Share your thoughts below.